Thursday, February 27, 2014
The Worst Constitutional Amendment
Ask liberals which part of the Constitution they could do without and they would probably pick the 2nd Amendment due to their illogical fear of citizens owning firearms. As a conservative, I think the part of the Constitution that would be best repealed is the 17th Amendment. This is the amendment that changed the Constitution to allow for direct election of U.S. senators. Prior to 1913, senators were voted on by state legislatures and not citizens.
The Founding Fathers set up election of senators by state legislatures on purpose. This was to be a check on Federal ability to overpower the states. Senators, who knew that their reelection depended on staying in the good graces of the state legislatures who voted for them, needed to be mindful of what was best for their state.
The progressives of the early 1900's, who found much of the Constitution to be an inconvenience, were the force behind the 17th Amendment. While people may feel it is more democratic to vote directly for a senator (instead of leaving that duty with state legislators they voted for), it has not had beneficial results.
In the pre-17th Amendment days, the average length senators served was less than half of what it became in the modern era. In the post 17th Amendment era, senators have been able to use the power of incumbency to get reelected over and over again. This was never possible under the old system where state politicians were eager to let one of their own have their turn at national office. A modern senator has no reason to consider the desires of his state's legislature since they no longer have power to replace him at the next election.
As part of the 1994 Contract With America, Newt Gingrich promised a vote on term limits which has been popular with the general public. The law did not pass. No doubt if we had 100 senators who were effectively already term limited by state legislature election, they would have supported a popular law that would not harm their chances to stay in power. But because incumbents are harder to remove than a deer tick, we now have senators who pay more attention to special interest groups instead of the needs of the states they are supposed to represent.
No doubt the worst result of the 17th Amendment is our current $17 trillion national debt. In 1995, also as part of the Contract With America, the US Senate voted down the Fiscal Responsibility Act by only one vote. This act would have required the federal government to maintain a balanced budget, just like all the states are required to. Again, it was in the interests of the states to see this law passed, so as to lessen the power of the national government. Instead, we missed our best chance to stop uncontrollable government deficits that have ballooned to the current irresponsible $17 trillion. It is sad to think how different our country would be if we had not spent the last 13 years spending our children's inheritance.
With so much concentration of power in Washington, it is unlikely that senators would support a return to the old method for selecting senators. However, there is talk on the state level of convening a constitutional convention to fix federal abuses such as this, which gives us some hope.
With Washington broke, it is time for We the People to fix things.
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